Who Is Liable in a California Truck Accident?

commercial truck crash

California truck accidents can be complex because multiple parties are typically involved. Identifying who is liable in a truck accident case is essential for pursuing fair compensation. An experienced truck accident attorney can help you calculate the extent of your damages and determine truck accident liability.

 

Who Can Be Held Liable in a Commercial Truck Accident

In 2021, 5,700 large trucks were involved in a fatal accident. This is an 18% increase from 2020. Determining truck accident liability involves identifying the liable parties. The following parties may be held liable for the damages in a trucking accident:

Truck Drivers

Truck drivers are responsible for adhering to traffic laws and safety regulations. If the truck driver caused the accident because of negligent behavior such as distracted driving, fatigue, or violating traffic laws, they can be held liable.

For example, hours of service regulations are in place to help prevent fatigue-related accidents. Violating these regulations can contribute to liability.

The Trucking Company

Trucking companies are responsible for the conduct of their drivers and the maintenance of their vehicles. Failure to properly maintain and inspect vehicles can lead to mechanical failures and truck accidents. If the company had hired a driver with a history of accidents or safety violations, they may be held liable for negligent hiring. In addition, if the truck driver lacked proper training, the employer may share liability.

If the company imposes unrealistic deadlines on drivers, leading to speeding or inadequate rest, they may share liability. Failure to comply with state and federal regulations can result in liability for the trucking company.

The Cargo Loaders

If the cargo is not loaded securely, leading to shifting or falling, those responsible for loading may be held liable. Exceeding weight limits can compromise the vehicle’s stability and contribute to commercial trucking accidents.

The Owners of the Cargo

If the cargo owners fail to provide accurate information about the cargo or it is improperly labeled, the owners may share liability. Cargo owners, shippers, loaders, and transporters share responsibility for the safe transportation of the cargo.

Truck Manufacturers and Parts Makers

If a mechanical failure or defective part contributed to the accident, the truck manufacturer or parts maker may be held responsible. For example, some truck accidents are caused by a tire blowout, problems with the steering systems, or brake failure. If there was a maintenance issue or faulty part, the truck manufacturer or parts maker may be held liable.

Government Entities

Poorly maintained roads, potholes, or inadequate traffic control measures can contribute to car accidents, making government entities potentially liable. A road hazard such as broken pavement can lead to a serious accident such as a rollover.

 

What to Do After a Truck Accident

Truck accident victims often deal with severe injuries, property damage, mental distress, and pain and suffering. It’s crucial to know what steps to take after a truck accident so you can safeguard your rights. Here are important steps to take after a truck accident.

  1. If possible, move to a safe, well-lit location.
  2. Call 911 and request emergency services if there are injuries.
  3. Exchange contact and insurance information with the truck driver and any other involved parties.
  4. Take photos of the accident scene, vehicle damage, skid marks, and any road signs or signals.
  5. Collect contact information from eyewitnesses and ask if they are willing to provide a statement.
  6. Even if don’t feel injured, it’s best to seek medical attention immediately. Some symptoms may not manifest right away and can worsen over time.
  7. Consult with a San Diego truck accident lawyer who will protect your rights and deal with the insurance companies on your behalf. An experienced attorney will help you hold the responsible parties accountable and recover compensation for your injuries and losses.

 

Common Factors That Cause Trucking Accidents

crushed commercial truck

Understanding the common causes of trucking accidents is essential for determining truck accident liability. The following factors often contribute to truck accidents:

Driver Fatigue – When truck drivers are on the road for lengthy hours of work, it can lead to driver fatigue. Inadequate sleep and physical or mental exertion can lead to slower reaction times and impaired decision-making abilities.

Speeding – Excessive speed reduces a truck’s ability to stop quickly, which can increase the severity of a truck crash.

Distracted Driving – When drivers engage in non-driving activities such as texting or using GPS it diverts their attention from the road.

Inadequate Training – Inexperienced truck drivers are at a greater risk of being involved in trucking accidents. A truck driver who lacks proper training may struggle to handle complex situations on the road.

Mechanical Failures – Defective parts or inadequate vehicle maintenance can result in mechanical failures, leading to car accidents.

Weather Conditions – Adverse weather conditions, such as fog, rain, ice, or snow, can increase the risk of auto accidents.

 

What if Multiple Parties Caused the Truck Accident?

Determining liability becomes more complex when multiple parties are involved. California follows a comparative negligence system to award damages to auto accident victims. This means that the percentage of fault is divided between the involved parties. Therefore, if the plaintiff is found 20% liable for the accident, and the defendant is found 80% liable, the plaintiff can only recover 80% of the damages. In this case, if the damages are $100,000, the plaintiff may recover $80,000 in compensation for their losses.

 

What Damages Can I Recover After a Trucking Accident?

insurance company form

Truck accident victims may be eligible to recover the following damages:

  • Medical Expenses: Compensation for medical care, surgical interventions, medications, and rehabilitation.
  • Property Damage: Coverage for repairing or replacing damaged vehicles or personal property.
  • Lost Wages: If you had to miss work due to your injuries, you may pursue lost income.
  • Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical pain, emotional trauma, and mental distress resulting from the accident.
  • Wrongful Death: Surviving family members may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit to recover compensation for funeral expenses and pain and suffering.
  • Punitive Damages: In cases of extreme negligence or misconduct, punitive damages may be awarded.

 

Minimum Liability Requirements for Truck Drivers in California

Truck drivers in California are required to meet minimum liability insurance requirements:

  • Drivers transporting non-hazardous, general freight must have a minimum of $750,000 in liability coverage.
  • Those transporting materials including oil must carry a minimum of $1 million in liability coverage.
  • Some hazardous materials require higher coverage, and drivers must carry $5 million in liability insurance.

 

Proving Negligence in a Trucking Accident Claim

To establish liability in a trucking accident claim, proving negligence is often crucial. Key elements in proving negligence include:

Duty of Care: Establishing that the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim, such as following traffic laws and safety regulations.

Breach of Duty: Demonstrating that the defendant breached their duty of care through actions like speeding, distracted driving, or inadequate maintenance.

Causation: Establishing a direct link between the defendant’s actions and the resulting injuries or damages.

Damages: Providing evidence of the actual damages incurred by the victim, such as medical bills, property damage, and lost wages.

 

Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer in California Today

If you’ve been involved in a truck accident in California, seeking legal assistance is crucial. An experienced personal injury lawyer will guide you through the legal process, help you determine liability, and pursue the compensation you deserve.

At Harbor Accident Attorneys, we are dedicated to helping truck accident victims recover justice. We maintain a 99% rate and have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients. You don’t have to deal with the aftermath of a truck accident alone. Don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego truck accident attorney to learn more about the viability of your case. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.